I just returned this week from a girls’ trip with 3 friends, a mixture of old and new. I had an amazing time for 2 full days and 2 travel/fun mix days. I missed Manchild and the other children, and was excited to come back to see them. But it had been nearly a year since my last escape, and I believe it was overdue. This belief is rooted in evidence of trauma: I got the freedom shakes.
I don’t really know what it’s like to have my own schedule for more than a few hours when I might hire a babysitter, or, during the school year, when the children are at preschool/other school. That time too often gets filled with errands, appointments, and generally driving around from place to place and creating a two-dimensional cat’s cradle on a map. There is really no spontaneity around here.
In fact on the way out of town for this trip, I had a doctor appointment for myself. After it was over and I sat in my car a moment, I felt relaxed yet confused. I faced a 5-hour drive by myself…to listen to whatever I want. Without yelling coming from the backseat. So I could listen to really explicit lyrics, some raunchy comedy podcasts; I could pretend I was an amazing singer without Girlchild commenting, “Mama, that woman in this song has such a pretty voice. I wish you sang as well as she did”; I could catch up on phone calls via Bluetooth. If I really wanted to I could have conversations with the robot navigation and control woman who lives in my dashboard. Luckily I’d already decided to listen to Jack Handey’s The Stench of Honolulu on audiobook. For the next several hours I enjoyed my coffee and laughed out loud.
Then I arrived in Door County, and my friends were not there yet. It was too early to check in the rental house, so I was….completely….free. When I first called my friend I said, “Um, I’m here, and I have no idea what to do, or at least where to start….I guess I’ll just drive around awhile, maybe eat or shop…I’ll text you when I stop somewhere?”
My friend said I sounded weird and she was worried about me. I blamed it on 3+ hours of Jack Handey (awesome, but scrambles your brain a bit), but then recognized my symptoms for what they were: the freedom shakes.
Watch any movie where someone escapes imprisonment or torture, or returns to their home after some sort of forced long hiatus, or comes up from the deep sea and gets the bends, and you’ll understand. The freedom shakes involve such an intense sense of relief and happiness as to completely overwhelm and stupefy the victim.
I drove around with a giant grin on my face, never actually stopping because I was in a state of shock, then panicked because my cell phone had very inconsistent service and I worried I may not be able to reach my friends. Luckily all was resolved rather quickly, and soon enough we were checked in, unloaded, and all in one car on our way to eat and shop. I even got to ride in the back seat (normally occupied with boosters and children in our house).
I began to exhibit more symptoms of the freedom shakes:
- The feeling and expression that everything around me was a miracle
- Too frequent sighing of happiness. About every minute I’d let out “Ahhhhhhh. I’m just sooooo happy to be here!”
- A loose sense of budget when confronted with eating and shopping
- A lack of inhibition regarding caffeine and alcohol intake
- Probably saying some really dumb things—a direct result from an adult conversation deficiency
- The changing of personality from Type A to Type Anything Else
I became easygoing to the point that I said, “I don’t care” about food/shopping/recreation options offered so often that I think I may have been annoying.
And spontaneity came back. After my last breakfast with my friends, I’d decided previously to head straight home, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided I needed to make at least 3 stops. On my own. And it was pretty wonderful. Maybe even worth the angst of hitting traffic in not one but two metropolitan areas on my drive back.
Upon my return, Manchild and Girlchild and Boychild told me tales of all the things they’d done to have fun and keep busy.
Manchild told me he’d been in Chipotle for dinner and a woman in front of him was ordering tacos. “So when they asked her if she wanted soft or hard shell tacos, she said, ‘Whatever. It doesn’t matter.’ Isn’t that ridiculous?”
“No, “ I said, “It sounds like she might have a minor case of the freedom shakes.”
“No, but SERIOUSLY, you HAVE to care. You have to have an opinion of what you want to eat!”
I just smiled. I’m all zen like that this week. That’s when you know you’ve shaken off the freedom shakes: the zen state of mind.